Written by Alex Osbaldeston
Market research panels are an important source of ongoing insight both for agencies and brands. They provide an effective way of gathering feedback to support business decision making as well as offering a reliable channel for measuring sentiment over time, and testing new ideas and products with key target audiences.
However successfully running panels that deliver ongoing, fast and effective insight can be difficult – here are the six major challenges that market research agencies and internal teams face:
On the positive side, today’s consumers increasingly want to share their feedback and opinions – look at how happy people are to express their views on social media, review sites and online forums. However, at the same time there is increasing competition for their time – leading to difficulties in recruiting panellists and high drop-out rates, meaning replacements have to be found, pushing up time and costs.
To keep costs in check and optimise resources you need to ensure that you can recruit and retain panellists over the medium to long term and ensure continuity. This means you need to engage their attention and meet their expectations, by delivering an online experience that encourages them to participate. For example, you need to deliver a survey experience that is responsive and optimised for the panel members’ device of choice. You also need to engage them with stimulating, easy to complete surveys that use multimedia and incorporate a variety of question types to keep them interested.
As panels have grown in size, managing them has become more complex and time-consuming. At the same time there is always pressure to reduce costs in the competitive market research sector.
This requires a technology platform that is built on automation and ease of use, reducing the resources needed to run your panel. It should allow you to launch surveys easily and collect and analyse the results and deliver findings without unnecessary manual intervention, or expensive specialist skills.
Business today moves faster than ever. Which means decisionmakers want actionable insight in hours and days, not weeks or months. Your technology should allow you to launch panel surveys as fast as possible – and to be able to quickly analyse the results and provide it to decisionmakers through actionable dashboards. Insight needs to be available to all relevant users, so give them the ability to slice and dice the data and be able to view visualisations that let them understand insights and make decisions faster. If you are an internal insight team you should also be able to quickly and easily integrate the panel results with internal data from other departments such as finance, sales and marketing.
Larger panels provide the opportunity to gain deeper insight – but they can also make it difficult to segment and reach the right people quickly and easily. Your panel management technology and processes should make it easy for you to identify and pinpoint specific audiences, for example, by filtering against demographics, interests or other criteria. This is important whether you are running ad-hoc surveys or are gathering regular ongoing feedback on important topics.
Whether you work in a market research agency or are part of an in-house team, you want to focus your effort on creating and launching compelling surveys that deliver valuable insight. You don’t want to spend your time learning specialist skills to help you manage and support the panels you are relying on. Your panel management software therefore has to be intuitive and user friendly, whether you are launching a survey or recruiting new members. It needs to be accessible, easy to customise and not require you to have knowledge of specialist scripting skills.
Today, protecting consumer data and ensuring confidentiality and anonymity is business-critical. You must ensure your panel management platform and processes are built on privacy, with stringent security standards dedicated to safeguarding respondent information at all times.
In Europe the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) brings in strict rules which means organisations have to be very clear and transparent around gaining consent to use personal information – as well as how they can use it and how long they can keep it. They must ensure all personal data is stored securely and reveal any breaches quickly or face heavy fines. Moreover, today’s consumers are growing increasingly savvy about data privacy which means those who fail to take it seriously will quickly lose their trust. Brands and agencies alike need to be confident that they are protecting consumer data and complying with all regulations.
Successfully managing research panels is a crucial part of many organisations’ market research strategies, delivering key insights that support informed decision making. This means that using the right technology and processes are essential if you want to overcome the challenges around panel management and provide fast, efficient and detailed insight to your business.